In defense of analog
It feels a little antithetical to extol the virtues of analog while using my laptop, but analog blogging is beyond my scope a this point so please guide me if you have any suggestions! It also feels hypocritical since, full disclosure, I was a quick convert to digital organization diving in as fast as I could. I stopped wearing a watch once I was carrying my flip phone everywhere, and tossed my alarm clock. This I was grateful for since I always had a contentious relationship to my alarm, and the variety of ring tones to choose from seemed to open up a world of exciting possibilities.
But recently I started wearing an analog watch again, because I realized that checking my phone for the time, now provokes checking my phone generally, and captivating my attention. I also noticed when I am teaching, reaching for my phone to check the time in my clock-less classroom pulls my focus and interrupts the class far more than just a glance at my wrist. Especially if there were notifications. I can resist the impulse - but the trigger of distraction is still getting activated. It's also interesting that the benefit
of an analog clock face can't compare to a digital when it comes to thinking in intervals. I break units into 15 and 30 minute lessons and find tracking quarter and half hours at-a-glance is much simpler based on a circle rather than seeing numbers and calculating.
I also was an early convert to taking notes and keeping my calendar on my computer or tablet. I recall thinking, wont it be great when we can keep everything in one place and it was for a little while. But once smartphones took over, barely even 10 years ago, the convenience of having everything in one place led at least in my experience to a kind of leveling-off of significance, and an incredible kind of uniformity of interactivity that I am not sure is in our best interest. We check our phones to look up something specific, or create edit an earlier draft and before we know it we're down the rabbit hole, unsure why we picked up it up to begin with.
The neural pathways of our brains have wired based upon how we interact with the world around us. There's a saying in neuroscience: 'neurons that fire together wire together' or simply, mental states become mental traits. As a species were are now looking at screens more than we're looking at faces for the first time in human history, and young adults now are often incredibly uncomfortable interacting with strangers or even speaking over a phone than we were as humans in the very recent past.
With note-taking, both as student and teacher I have noticed there are many benefits to handwriting. With small children fine motor skills are more effectively honed by grasping a pencil and developing the dexterity to create individual letters. And learning how to write them helps to identify them in reading. Fingertips on keyboards use less of the body, and therefore actually make less of an imprint on the mind. There is a more physical experience writing the word 'dog' than to type the letters d-o-g. And with analog note-taking we can break the form more quickly for emphasis, highlighting, connections, and references back by our own unique ways of doing so. Sure, these things are possible with keyboarding as well but only within the structured container of our word processing software of choice and rarely as speedily or with as much freedom of expression.
The process of committing something to memory is actually improved by writing text out longhand. When memorizing lines, acting students are often students are advised to write out everything they say. Take the time to go through the script while learning the text and write out every word. Simply slowing down the process of thinking about the words, thoughts, and story makes a more lasting impression than just reading aloud. And also, the action of pen to paper turning the shape of each letter into each word creates a very different somatic experience than typing.
But what I've also noticed is when looking something up, going back through notebooks seeing notes written is a snapshot of time, and is memory jogging in itself. More so than searching through digital documents, searching by keyword, and then seeing all the information visually with no variation from the prior project, or season, or year of learning.
Think about the last time you received a handwritten card or letter. Chances are it felt far more personal and thoughtful than how we typically communicate by default now. And, it is. It is more conscious and more considerate. There are a few people in my life who still send cards in the mail. One of whom has a birthday this week. It's not something I do with any sort of consistency anymore but I'm inspired to. There is a value so much greater than cost of postage and a significance that texts and email lack.
Photo credit: Jess Watters on Unsplash